Microsoft Campus Goes Geothermal for Heating & Cooling

After four years of construction, the Microsoft’s Redmond campus modernization nears completion. Spanning 72 acres, the project incorporates numerous environmentally-conscious designs and features, with the Geothermal Energy Center (TEC) standing out as a remarkable achievement.

To regulate the campus temperature, a 6.5-acre geothermal well field was established last year, comprising approximately 900 boreholes drilled up to 550 feet deep. This initiative aims to meet 50% of the heating and cooling demands without emitting carbon.

Despite challenges such as an unmapped subsurface environment and past construction debris, GLY Construction successfully completed the drilling within budget and on schedule. Their approach included virtual design and construction techniques, ensuring precision down to 256ths of an inch.

The closed-loop geothermal system utilizes the earth’s energy to heat and cool water, with enough refrigeration capacity to cool 3,000 homes during summer. Recognized as Project of the Year by Engineering News Record, the TEC boasts a heating capacity of 28 million Btus per hour and nine chillers capable of providing 9,000 tons of refrigeration.

The well field area now hosts 2.5 miles of walking and biking trails, alongside sports facilities like softball fields, cricket pitches, and basketball courts. Enormous water tanks store exchanged water for heating and cooling purposes, all powered by renewable energy sources.

The broader Redmond East campus renovation encompasses 6.7 million square feet and incorporates various carbon-reducing measures, including an all-electric kitchen and rainwater collection cisterns. Throughout construction, Microsoft and its contractors diverted 95% of demolition waste from landfills and reduced embodied carbon in building materials by at least 30%.

Reflecting on this environmentally-focused endeavor, Michael Green building systems director of OAC, lauds it as unparalleled in his four-decade career in construction.

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